Film directors pay attention to the small and big details. They carefully select a talented cast, work with the best cinematographers to create breathtaking scenarios, and occasionally, even write the screenplays. When a movie is an adaptation of a book, they make sure the script remains faithful to the original material. Coppola, Scorsese, Iñarritu, all great directors possess these characteristics, except Kubrick.
Stanley Kubrick, one of the most brilliant directors in the film industry, didn't apply this winning formula to his films. At least, not intentionally. He had the cast and the cinematography. However, whenever he filmed a book adaptation, his screenplays differed from the novels. The censorship during Kubrick’s times made his work difficult. After filming Paths of Glory, the French government banned his motion picture from theaters. The controversy followed him in 1962 with his version of Lolita. Nabokov was involved in the screenplay, but the censorship forced Kubrick to rewrite the script. As a result, the film omitted many of the details that can be found in the novel.
It wasn’t until Kubrick started filming A Clockwork Orange that he faced more problems. He was banned from England and received death threats, which forced him to leave the country and find other locations to continue working. When the production finished and the movie hit the theaters, he was blamed for the erratic behavior of teenagers who replicated Alex’s violent actions.
Despite the complications, and the fact that Burgess didn’t agree with the way his book was adapted, A Clockwork Orange is still a movie classic. Forty five years later, it continues to evoke distress in the audience and everyone is trying to answer Burgess' question: "Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?"
It’s still controversial, but a delight to watch.
“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” — Stanley Kubrick
French film critic Michel Ciment interviewed Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange. “Since so many different interpretations have been offered about A Clockwork Orange, how do you see your own film?” Ciment, asked to the director.
“The central idea of the film has to do with the question of free-will. Do we lose our humanity if we are deprived of the choice between good and evil? Do we become, as the title suggests, A Clockwork Orange?” Kubrick answered.
“I think the dramatic impact of the film has principally to do with the extraordinary character of Alex, as conceived by Anthony Burgess in his brilliant and original novel. Aaron Stern, the former head of the MPAA rating board in America, who is also a practicing psychiatrist, has suggested that Alex represents the unconscious: man in his natural state. After he is given the Ludovico 'cure' he has been 'civilized,' and the sickness that follows may be viewed as the neurosis imposed by society,” Kubrick stated about the main character of his film.
In the interview, Kubrick also explains the differences between his film and Burgess’ novel for example, the age of the characters. Kubrick stated that he never intended to create a different scenario from the one described in the book.
Because his film was based on an edition that doesn’t contain Burgess final chapter, Kubrick’s ending is less optimistic. “This extra chapter depicts the rehabilitation of Alex. But it is, as far as I am concerned, unconvincing and inconsistent with the style and intent of the book (…) I certainly never gave any serious consideration using it,” Stanley affirmed, regarding the ending of A Clockwork Orange.
Stanley Kubrick’s legacy consists on depicting the way humanity can both create and destroy the world they live in. A Clockwork Orange is a profound reflection of that destructive capacity. Only the consciousness of a person can save them from their own doom. In the film, it isn't until Alex is confined into a mental institution that he is able to be “reinserted” to society and leave behind his thirst for violence.
You can read the complete interview here.